Pitt students campaign, advocate for Sara Innamorato with ‘Students for Sara’ group


Will Allison, a junior political science major, founder of the Students for Sara group.

By Abby Lipold, Staff Writer

Following an impressive youth voter turnout in the midterm elections, some politically minded Pitt students, like Henry Cohen, are looking to encourage turnout in local elections which he thinks can have “massive consequences.” Cohen, a first-year political science major, is campaigning for Sara Innamorato, a progressive Democrat running for Allegheny County executive. 

“Sara is a longtime Allegheny resident and has been a huge friend to progressive causes, with issues such as raising the minimum wage and properly taxing UPMC,” Cohen, who recently took on the role of campaign club president, said. 

The Allegheny County executive is responsible for overseeing local government departments and representing the county at larger government meetings. The executive also has a say in fiscal policy, which impacts local economic development, an issue that appeals to college students in particular. 

Innamorato, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, is running on the basis of workers’ rights, government investment in local infrastructure and equitable healthcare. She currently serves as a representative for the 21st district of Pennsylvania in the State House of Representatives and is a member of the Democratic Socialists for America. 

Will Allison, a junior political science major, started the Students for Sara group and has personally worked alongside her in other projects. He cited the Whole Homes Repair Act, a bill which allocates $125 million toward repairing the homes of low- to moderate-income families, as a basis for his support. 

“I know she has the lived experience, political skill and focus on equity to be the type of transformative county executive that Allegheny County desperately needs,” Allison said, referring to her position in the House of Representatives and familiarity with Allegheny County. 

Innamorato is running against City Controller Michael Lamb, Allegheny County Councilor Olivia Bennett, former Allegheny County Councilor Dave Fawcett, local business owner Will Parker and Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein. Former PNC Executive Joe Rockey is vying for the Republican nomination. 

Allison said every county executive candidate is required to collect 500 signatures to get their name on the ballot, and 214 of those came from Pitt students. Overall, Innamorato received close to 4,000 signatures, which the club hopes is a positive sign for her campaign. 

“Our immediate goal, now that petitioning is finished, is to help get awareness up about the upcoming 2023 local elections,” Allison said. 

“Over the course of the next couple of months, we’re going to be canvassing around campus to ensure people know how to vote,” Cohen said.

Although the Students for Sara meetings are irregular, the club often works together to take on canvassing and tabling projects around campus in order to encourage student voter turnout. 

“The actual election itself is May 16, after our summer break starts, so in order to vote, most people will need a mail-in ballot,” Cohen said. 

Students for Sara has also inspired student advocacy in other political areas. Derek Haeussler, a first-year political science major and member of Students for Sara, recently started his own Discord server in support of Rachael Heisler, a candidate for Pittsburgh City Controller, a position responsible for making fiscal recommendations for the local government. 

“I started the Students for Rachael Heisler Discord because I believe all politics are local,” Haeussler said. “Even though the City Controller’s office doesn’t affect Pitt directly, it still has a sizable influence in the city and community.”

Haeussler added that he hopes to expand the social media group to other universities as well since the local elections affect students outside of Pitt. 

Allison emphasized the overall importance of spreading the word in political advocacy, making sure students are well informed on how to exercise their right to vote. 

“Obviously we would prefer that students vote for Sara Innamorato as county executive,” Allison said, “but our main focus is on making sure students are voting at all.”